“Why isn’t my date texting me? I thought she had a good time. I mean, we had fun, didn’t we?”
You check your phone again. Once again, your smiling visage greets you. No text, Facebook message, or InstaPic of you and your date.
As your anxiety marinates, you instinctively check your phone. Nothing. Still. You call her again; the call buzzes to voicemail.
Now panicked, emotion overtakes logic. Four times. Six times. Your voice rising, anxiety coats your messages. “Hello, this is (insert name). I just wanted to check in. The date was fun — call me when you get this.”
The answer: her phone died. Charging it, she scrolls through your text and voicemail blitz. Chillier than a TSA agent, she coolly responds, “Yes, I did have fun. But good things come to those who wait. And you will be waiting a long time for a phone call or text.”
You need a second helping of patience. Right now.
Many of us, myself included, transform from good-natured to impatient in, give or take, 0.8 seconds. Your impatience clouds interpersonal relationships, stunts employment advancement, and distracts from your intended message. When impatience and impulsiveness merge, we alter long-term plans for simplistic fixes. Satisfying our unquenchable thirst for instant gratification, we embrace the newest diet fad, crave the hottest brand, and deify the latest relationship.
In the mental health world, our impatience applies to the overarching desire to feel better now. We want the uncomfortable feelings and anxious thoughts to zoom away. Five more minutes of anxiety seems interminable. We switch counselors, alter drug regimens, and exhaust treatment providers. Framing our impatience as persistence, we chafe at providers’ admonitions. “They don’t get it,” we grumble. Yes, they don’t understand our smoldering anxiety or sinking depression. But, ask yourself, does your impatience fuel the burning anxiety and searing self-doubt? The answer may be a cold shower of reality.
“I get it,” you say. “In our go-go world, yes, I drive in endless circles. I feel rushed; colleagues and friends say I look distracted. Can I learn patience? Is it even teachable?” Yes, it is. Your Type-A identity is rooted in persistence, a dogged determination to achieve your desired outcome. Studying for a high-pressure exam, your persistence produces results. Patience, however, is a tougher subject than the international relations exam you aced. And one that qualifies as a CLE — continuing life education.
Welcome to the toughest course of your life. There are no grades here; you set your own curve in our real-world practicum. Here is the course syllabus: control what you can control. That’s it. For example, you control your exam preparation for Dr. Dificil’s Spanish final. You can’t control whether Dr. Dificil promptly responds to an email or grades the exam in a day, a week, or a month. Huffing and puffing, persistence propels you to the finish line. Patience, though, provides the emotional fuel for all of life’s races.
The second step: accept the situation without judgment. As you, prideful overachiever, wait for Dr. Dificil to return the exam, your anxiety spikes from slow simmer to full boil. We expect others to operate on our timeframe, however unrealistic. Doesn’t Dr. Dificil know that I am applying for a graduate fellowship? He must be an uncaring boor. When someone fails to meet our expectations, we apply inaccurate, shortsighted labels. The real reason for Dr. Dificil’s tardiness: a loved one passed away in his native country.
From idling in traffic to career advancement, life demands patience. Our time schedule and expectations are exactly those: our own. Practice striking a balance between persistence and patience. Your reward: perspective. Trivial nuisances that once irked you (of course, there is construction!) float away. Traffic screeching to a halt on the highway? Shift from Drive to (P)atience and remember that you have enough fuel for more than the drive home.
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